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Peer to Peer: How do I get the most out of search engine optimization for my business website?

If your company needs SEO, tap Google intelligence first
Jonathan Becker, Guy Martin Smalley and Darrell Hadden

Jonathan Becker: Principal, Thrive Digital

Google’s ranking algorithm grades web pages on over 200 different signals in order to determine a page’s rank within search results. With an estimated one billion searches being made daily on, the prospect of enhancing a website’s rankings through the optimization of these signals represents a huge potential opportunity for many organizations.

For business owners, getting the most out of search engine optimization (SEO) involves understanding where to allocate your time.

You’re going to have to begin by spending some time reading. While there is lots of information on the web about SEO, Google has published some of the world’s best resources on the topic.  If you read only one thing in your life about SEO, it should be the Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (it’s free). A solid understanding of this guide’s fundamentals will help you decide what to do and how to do it.

In order to manage many of the ranking signals discussed in Google’s Starter Guide, especially the tricky technical ones, you should also download and install the Yoast SEO Plugin for Wordpress (also free).  

Finally, don’t forget that not all SEO is done on your website. People do SEO to obtain visibility within search results, and if you’re a business with a physical location, one of the best ways of achieving this is by creating a Google Places for Business account.

Google Places gives you a huge amount of control over your listing in Google Maps and how these maps listing are subsequently displayed within Google search results for navigational and informational searches.

The best part of all is that Places listings are free. Happy optimizing!

Guy Martin Smalley: Founder, Bowery Creative

The first thing you have to ask yourself is: does my business even need search engine optimization (SEO)?

Put simply, the stronger your brand or the more unique your product, the less you’re going to benefit from SEO. Certainly, you’ll need to make sure that search engines can find your website, but beyond that your money might be better spent on marketing, advertising or branding.

If, on the other hand, you have a product or service that is fairly common and has a high level of competition, SEO is a marketing strategy that you can’t ignore. Doctors, dentists, law firms are all perfect candidates for SEO.

With that in mind, here are a few things that will help you get on your way to search engine domination.

•Local listings. Get your business listed in local listings and maps. Google+ Business is a good place to start.

•Keywords. What search terms should people use to find your business? Your site should contain keywords in its URL, page titles and body content. Make them specific to the service or product that you offer. For example, “Vancouver Wedding Photographer” will convert better than “Photographer.”

•Back-links. Links from reputable websites back to your site can do wonders for your ranking. But reputable is the operative word here (no porn or gambling). If you’ve used an SEO agency in the past and recently experienced a drop in rankings, it might have used dirty tactics. A good SEO agency can help you disavow any questionable links.

•Original high quality content. If there ever was a silver bullet solution to SEO, this is it. Search engines love updated, original content. Start blogging.

•Don’t try to trick Google. Remember, it’s Google’s traffic, not yours. It can direct it wherever it pleases. Don’t spam or buy shady links!

Darrell Hadden: President, Graphically Speaking

Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about setting up your website so that your company shows up on the first page of a search engine’s organic results. Think about it. Did you know that the top three organic ranked results in Google receive 58.4% of all clicks?

To get the most out of SEO you’ll first need to research what keywords/phrases people use to find your business, products and services. Start with words that are highly relevant to your business with large search volume. Google’s free AdWords Keyword Tool analyzes potential search terms and provides the quantity of search activity of various keywords.

Next, with your arsenal of keywords, you will need to optimize your website by editing a few core elements on every page. Add applicable search terms to elements such as your page titles, meta descriptions, header tags, content, alt tags, in-page links and external links. Create a content page for each major keyword/phrase for best results. Ideally, each keyword/phrase should also be on your home page and link to the internal content page.

With the advent of mobile, local search is becoming more important. In your keyword analysis, ensure that you have appropriate geographic terms within your keyword/phrases such as “Langley paint store” or “Vancouver SEO.” Be sure to add these geographic terms to your website content.

To expand your keyword list, consider regularly adding new content to your blog or website

Add Google Analytics to every page of your website to monitor your search results and analyze website traffic. This free service is an excellent tool for helping you make SEO decisions based on real data.

As with all marketing initiatives, this is an ongoing process that requires effort and analysis, so have fun and experiment with it.